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Press Release

Panel: Border Security, Environment Threatened on Federal Border Lands

Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations held a hearing to review bureaucratic challenges to securing the border on federal lands. Testimony highlighted the need to increase the U.S. Border Patrol’s access to federal borderlands in order to strengthen national and environmental security.

“Cross border violators take advantage of Border Patrol’s lack of operational flexibility on federal lands. We need to ensure that our environmental laws do not compromise Border Patrol’s ability to detect, identify, track, and respond to cross border violations,” Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) stated.

Despite a 2006 Memorandum of Understanding between federal agencies to facilitate coordination for border security measures, environmental laws and regulations impede Border Patrol’s operations on federal land.

While Border Patrol agents must adhere to environmental laws and regulations, cross border violators disregard environmental laws, and as a result, cause extensive ecological and environmental damage ranging from wildland fires, soil erosion, habitat destruction, and the accumulations of human waste and garbage.

“Access is critical. If the Border Patrol does not have access, we cannot do our job with security. Our environmental laws inhibit that access from taking place,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) stated.

“This is not a partisan issue—this is an environmental and national security issue,” Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) stated.

“The fact is when we have a National Park that allows drug smugglers to come in, to use the park at will, and they destroy the park and leave tons of trash and we can’t allow our enforcement people to go out there and stop them, then that is not enforcing the border,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) argued.

H.R. 4760, the “Securing America’s Future Act,” sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), includes language to enhance Border Patrol’s access to federal borderlands.

“Today’s hearing reinforces the need for Border Patrol agents to have access to our federal lands,” Rep. Labrador stated. Section 1118 of my immigration reform bill, the Securing America’s Future Act, addresses this issue and will help make Idaho and America safer.”

Witnesses included Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council, Dan Bell, President of ZZ Cattle Corporation and Andrew Arthur, Resident Fellow in Law and Policy for the Center for Immigration Studies.

Click here for additional information on today’s hearing.